If you push Blake Griffin, the Clippers are pushing back

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Opposing teams have been trying to knock Blake Griffin off his game. Literally.

As Griffin has emerged as an NBA star and powerhouse offensive force, other teams have started to combat his physical presence with some physical play of their own. Teams have been trying to push Griffin around. The Clippers noticed and as a team decided they were not going to let that happen, players told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

You could see it most clearly in the end-of-game incident with the Lakers last Sunday. Griffin and Lamar Odom got into a little push and pull under the basket, and Baron Davis came rushing in to shove back Odom and protect his guy. Think of it as just one teammate protecting another, but this was planned for.

The team meeting took place on the bus the afternoon of Dec. 16, after the Clippers returned to the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Mich., from practice at nearby Oakland University. Coaches and staffers exited, players stayed on, decisions were made.

Among others, it was decreed right there, parked near the entrance of the building, that Blake Griffin would be protected…..

“Just as far as having each other’s back, but knowing, hey, it’s a target on him especially and we’ve got to be ready for it,” said veteran Craig Smith, out now with a herniated disc but normally a physical presence as a 265-pound forward.

“And if we have to get in a brawl, there’s a brawl. It’s a grown-man’s league, and sometimes it happens. I don’t like for it to happen like that, but it’s a very emotional game. He might not like how somebody grabs him and might get up fast. It happens. It’s part of the game. I wish it was like hockey, where we could put boards all around, if guys want to go at it. But I think they don’t want to go at it with him like that, one-on-one.

“I think it started in the Portland game, with Andre Miller. I told [Griffin], ‘You’ve got to protect yourself out there, first and foremost. But at the same time, as a group, we have your back.’ They tried to get in his head. I told him, ‘Don’t let it frustrate you. Just take it to another level. Use that anger out there on the floor versus going at them at attacking ’em.’ “

The Clippers are starting to figure things out. They are playing well, 10-4 in the last 14. They are earning respect and with that will come efforts to derail them. The real tests are ahead. February is when the Clippers head out on the road for their extended annual Grammys road trip. There are tough teams ahead no longer looking past Los Angeles.

But at least these Clippers will not back down.

Warriors first team to win five straight conference titles

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Presenting the Western Conference-championship trophy in 2015, former Warriors coach Al Attles worried about dropping it. He told Stephen Curry to pick it up directly, avoiding a potentially troublesome lift and handoff. Curry raised the trophy to a jubilant Oakland crowd.

Golden State hasn’t lost control of the trophy since.

The Warriors won their fifth straight conference title – the longest streak of all-time – with a 119-117 Game 4 win over the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals Monday. Only the Boston Celtics, who won 10 straight division titles 1957-1966 before the NBA adopted conference in 1971, have gone to so many consecutive NBA Finals.

Here are the longest streaks of NBA Finals appearances:

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Blazers start hot, again. Warriors come back, again, win in OT to eliminate Portland

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Monday night saw the third film in the Portland/Golden State movie franchise. We had seen this same plot in the last two games— Portland races out to an early lead thanks to unexpected hero, Golden State comes back and executes better down the stretch, then Golden State wins

Monday night was just more dramatic.

It was almost the Meyers Leonard game — he had a career-best 25 points before the half and finished with 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting.

Adding to the drama, the Warriors delayed their comeback to the fourth quarter, but comeback they did.

Stephen Curry — who had a triple-double on the night and had 37 points to lead all scorers — sparked the comeback but was almost remembered for traveling with an exaggerated Harden step back rather than taking a potential game-winning two (and his brother Seth Curry was all over the travel call).

In the end, none of that mattered.

It was Draymond Green — who also had a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists — that hit a dagger three in OT off a Curry assist, and that proved to be too much for the Trail Blazers to overcome.

Golden State win 119-117 in a game of little defense, and with that takes the series 4-0.

The Warriors will now have nine days off to get Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, and DeMarcus Cousins healthy — all three sat out this game — before taking on either the Bucks or Toronto in the Finals (which will start in the East city).

Portland is done for the season, but they should look back with pride on the growth this team has shown. They found a third star in Jusuf Nurkic, and then without him still made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. This season was a step forward for Portland, something to build on.

Portland just did not have the matchups or answers for Golden State.

Steve Kerr, without three guys who started Game 1 of the playoffs against the Clippers, threw out the kind of rotations usually seen on the second night of a back-to-back in January, but the Warriors depth came through. Kevon Looney had a strong game with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Shaun Livingston had eight points, Jordan Bell started and had 7.

More than depth, what separated the teams in this series was Golden State could crank up the defense when it needed it. The Warriors played with more defensive intensity in the fourth, holding the Trail Blazers to 6-of-23 shooting. In overtime, Portland shot 3-of-10.

The Warriors shot just 3-of-12 in the fourth, but had five offensive rebounds and Green’s dagger three, and that was enough. They won a tough game without their stars.

It’s a movie we have seen before.

Unstoppable Meyers Leonard drops 25 on Warriors in first half (VIDEO)

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Stephen Curry had an I-don’t-want-to-play-Game-5 kind of first half for Golden State, scoring 25 points and hitting 5-of-7 from three.

However, he was the second best player on the court because Meyers Leonard held that crown.

Yes, Meyers Leonard.

He had 25 points of his own on 10-of-12 shooting.

Fans broke out a “Mey-ers Leon-ard” chant.

All that had Portland up 69-65 at the half in a defense-optional Game 4 where it is win-or-go-home for the Trail Blazers.

Knicks Frank Ntilikina reportedly wants to be traded, switches agents

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When the Knicks acquired Emmanuel Mudiay last season — a player Denver just released outright — Mudiay instantly jumped past Frank Ntilikina on the point guard depth chart. Then, when the Knicks traded for Dennis Smith Jr. at the deadline (part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal), the future of Ntilikina in New York was thrown into uncertainty.

Ntilikina sees that, wants out, and is getting a new agent as well, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina dropped CAA as his agency last season and planned to sign with French agent Bouna Ndiaye, the Daily News has learned.

Ntilikina, who was drafted eighth overall by Knicks in 2017, is on the trading block and desires a relocation, a source told the News. The Knicks declined offers to move Ntilikina at the trade deadline in February, acquired another point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., and Ntilikina quickly decided to change agents.

Ndiaye represents several French players in the NBA, including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.

The Knicks are expected to try to trade Ntilikina, either at the draft or next summer. Mostly other teams will view him as a way to save money — if teams do not pick up his 2020-21 option by Oct. 31 he comes off the books after this next season — but also Ntilikina played good defense and other teams may try to take a flier on him.